The Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen have agreed to extend their contract with Lanier Parking Solutions, the company that has operated the town’s parking meters since late 2003.
Company representatives gave a presentation that listed the changes the town and company have made to streamline the parking system and increase revenue from it in Wrightsville Beach since 2010, including installing new, more technologically advanced meters and pay stations, increasing hourly and daily rates, adding signs, restructuring the parking pass system and redrawing some parking spaces. They also presented the numbers from the recently completed 2015 season. Following this, the board decided unanimously to renew the contract. The last amendment to the original contract between the two parties was made in June 2014.
Though the details of the contract have yet to be determined and will be presented at the Oct. 13 board meeting, the agreement is for a two-year extension with two , one-year renewal options after that. As an incentive to get the contract, Lanier lowered their management fee from 3.33 percent of total revenue collected to 3.1 percent. In addition to setting the terms of the contract in October, town officials are also planning to meet in December to go over things they want Lanier to implement or change for next season.
Some of the changes made prior to the 2015 tourist season included upgrading all pay stations to 3G modems and adding compact car spaces. Lanier also made pay-by-phone, which requires users to download a smartphone app or set up an online account, the exclusive method of payment on two small residential roads, West Greensboro Street and West Henderson Street.
Lanier representatives believe this method, which cuts down on operating and labor costs because everything is done online, will be more beneficial to the town in the long run. As part of their presentation, they outlined a five-year plan that would see pay stations and meters removed from 10 more streets (two per year) to make them exclusively pay-by-phone. According to the company, the change would reduce annual costs to the town by nearly $20,000 (over $16,000 for equipment and $3,000 for labor). Based on their data from this season, Lanier said revenue from this form of payment increased dramatically in July and citations have remained low in the two areas that made the switch this year.
While making the change from physical places of payment to completely mobile will help the town’s bottom line, it will require some adjustments from Wrightsville Beach visitors who may not have previous experience with it. In order to use the pay-by-phone system, which the town first implemented as a payment option in 2010, users must first set up an account where they enter their cell phone number, credit card information and license plate number. They then enter their space number and amount of time desired for parking. Five minutes before their time expires, the user gets a text message asking if they’d like to add more time. While this process eliminates the need to carry around pounds of change and provides the convenience of not having to leave your spot on the beach, the service chargers 35 cents per transaction on top of the hourly parking rate. More information on the system can be found here.
In terms of overall revenue for the season, it has increased slightly from last season. According to Lanier’s numbers, parking revenue this year is approximately $2,657,000. Last year during the same time period, revenue was about $2,620,000. The sale of residential passes also went up, from 2,516 last year to 2,601 so far this year. These passes are only available to town property owners who must prove their residency and cost $25 each, with a limit of two per household. The percentage of citation collections is currently lower than it was last year, but company representatives said they’re still collecting fines from the summer.